Learn : Postpone can be used to move outstanding material review to a later time whenever you cannot cope with your daily load of repetitions. This option is particularly useful in heavily overloaded incremental reading.
Why is Postpone important?
In the previous millennium (i.e. before the advent of incremental reading in SuperMemo), the world of learning provided two extreme alternatives:
Neither alternative provides a complete solution to the problem of forgetting. The balance between the two alternatives was left to the student. The optimum strategy was to use traditional learning to sift the strategic material, and then to memorize mission-critical material with SuperMemo.
The confinement of SuperMemo to strategic high-retention material was a powerful inhibitory force against SuperMemo's universal adoption:
Incremental reading bridges the worlds of traditional learning and that of SuperMemo by providing a fluent transition between all priority levels starting from quick review, to repeated passive review, to active review, and to active recall at all level of the forgetting index down to 3% (i.e. nearly 99% recall rate). Incremental reading also includes an anti-overload option: Postpone that blurs the concept of the must-do outstanding material that had levied a heavy toll on SuperMemo usership.
Before SuperMemo 2002, incremental reading did not automate the process of "prioritizing by overflow". In other words, high volumes of learning would force the student to manually reschedule learning in branches or subsets of lower priority. Manual rescheduling of the material was necessary to protect core knowledge from a dramatic drop in retention. Substantially reduced retention slows down the learning process not only via the forgetting index vs. acquisition rate relationship, but also through unraveling of the incremental reading process where the new knowledge is built on a shaky foundation of what has been learned earlier. In addition, the flow of thought in incrementally read articles becomes disrupted if the core knowledge retention is not protected.
SuperMemo 2002 introduced Postpone to make it possible to reschedule lower priority material with a keystroke. The student could now painstakingly work out priorities for individual subsets or branches of knowledge and then apply these easily on a daily basis.
To fully understand the importance of Postpone, you need to master the concept of incremental reading first.
Warning! Each time you use Postpone you depart from your chosen level of knowledge retention! Never use Postpone on your most important learning material!
You can use Postpone daily if you apply it to topics and to material of lower priority. However, if you use it on your core items, your recall of these items will suffer. In extreme cases you can undermine your enthusiasm for using SuperMemo. To see the effects of rescheduling on the forgetting index see: Theoretical aspects of learning (forgetting index recovery figure)
The Postpone dialog box presented below includes three tabs: Scope, Parameters, and Adjust. The Scope tab settings are mostly done automatically for you depending on the context in which you use Postpone. The Parameters tab makes it possible to define the degree to which items and/or topics are postponed in the selected subset, and which items and/or topics are exempt from rescheduling. Once you define Parameters you can save the new setting with Scope : Save. Later you can restore the setting by using Settings name box.
You need to understand the Parameters tab if you want to customize the degree of delay in rescheduling.
Delay factor determines how much elements should be delayed. For example, if you choose the delay of 1.1 (10%) on an element with the interval of 100 days, it will be delayed by ten days, i.e. rescheduled to the interval of 110 days.
Maximum interval puts a ceiling on the length of the delay interval. For example, if you choose the delay of 1.1 on an element with the interval of 200 days, and the maximum interval is 5 days, the element will be delayed only by 5 days (instead of the 20 days produced by multiplying the original interval by the delay factor).
Minimum interval puts a floor on the length of the delay interval. For example, if you set it to 3, all delayed elements will be delayed by no less than 3 days.
Skip conditions determine which elements will be exempt from delay.
- if you check Skip items or Skip topics, items or topics (respectively) will not be rescheduled
- Interval beyond will exempt elements with intervals longer than a selected value. For example, if you set Interval beyond to 320 days, no elements with interval longer than 320 days will be rescheduled. This can help you avoid infinite postpones. Once the element is postponed beyond a given interval, it will automatically enter the core of elements that will not be postponed
- Forgetting index below makes it possible to determine the level of the forgetting index that will prevent items from being postponed. For example, if you set Forgetting index below to 5%, items with forgetting index 3% and 4% will not be rescheduled. This way you can make sure that the most important items in your collection are protected from a drop in retention
- A-Factor below is analogous to Forgetting index below. The only difference is that you will use it with topics instead of items. Set A-Factor of most important articles to a very low value (e.g. 1.01). This way you will be able to filter them out at Postpone and make sure they never get rescheduled
- Postpone count helps you prevent numerous postpones. For example, if you set the postpone count to 6 in the Items column, items will only be postponed 6 times. After that, Postpone will not affect them
- Delay above makes it possible to avoid rescheduling of elements whose delay reached a too high level (in interval percent). The default value is 50%
The Adjust tab can be used for fine tuning delays on subsets with a complex priority structure of individual branches of knowledge. Sub-branch postpones determines how the rescheduling procedure interprets branches included in the subset that have their own postpone setting defined. Here are the possible options:
Advanced settings on the Adjust tab include: Include elements that are not outstanding (switching between Postpone and Dilute), Modify item delay in proportion to the forgetting index (for delaying items in proportion to the forgetting index) and Modify topic delay in proportion to A-Factor (for delaying topics in proportion to their A-Factor).
Simulate, Postpone and Dilute
Once you define the settings on the Parameters tab and, optionally, fine tune them on the Adjust tab, save them with Save on the Scope tab. You can now test the postpone procedure by clicking Simulate. If you are not satisfied with the results, redefine Parameters. Once you are happy with the result of the simulation, Save the settings and choose Postpone.
The option Dilute should only be used in rare circumstances. It is analogous to Postpone but it also delays elements that are not outstanding. There are two main reasons for using Dilute:
Using Postpone in various contexts
Few people are able to focus efficiently on learning with SuperMemo for longer than 40-60 minutes. However, you should be able to do far more if you divide your learning day into portions. You will get best results when learning at times of highest alertness (see: Good sleep for good learning to find out the two main alertness periods in a healthy circadian rhythm). Here is an exemplary strategy:
Postpone or Mercy?
Postpone should drastically reduce the role of Mercy in SuperMemo. However, you may still need Mercy in the following circumstances: